Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef told the MTA Board last week the county should be exempt from fare increases because of the existing $40 million value gap. The value gap is determined to be the difference between what residents and businesses pay to MTA and the county receives in transit service and funding.
Vanderhoef’s November 30 letter criticized the agency for not holding any of the recent fare hearings in the county despite a October letter requesting that the MTA do so.
Vanderhoef specifically called for no increases in fares from the Metro North stations in Nanuet, Pearl River, Spring Valley and Sloatsburg or on the Haverstraw-Ossining ferry. Commuters using the Tappan Zee Express and Haverstraw-Ossining UnitTickets should also be spared a fare hike.
Vanderhoef noted Rockland residents pay $108 million yearly to the MTA for $68 million worth of services.
“That leaves us with a $40 million value “gap” [MTA Value Gap Analysis (February 2012)],” he wrote. “Public documents, commissioned studies and MTA’s own reports have consistently shown that Rockland County has been overpaying MTA in this manner for more than 25 years.”
Vanderhoef noted that the latest report that factors in the train and ferry operations plus other services that Rockland may use on the other side of the Hudson River such police, MTA bus and subway transit and bridges and tunnels shows a $68 million value.
Vanderhoef also took issue with the level of train service and condition of stations referring to them as “sub-par.”
The full text of the letter follows:
November 30, 2012
Dear Members of the MTA Board:
On behalf of Rockland County commuters and taxpayers, I must once again voice my opposition to the MTA’s proposed fare increases and call for no increase to fares from Metro-North’s Rockland County rail stations in Spring Valley, Nanuet, Pearl River and Sloatsburg. I also call for no fare increase for the Haverstraw-Ossining ferry, and no increase to the train fare for the Tappan Zee Express (TZx) UniTicket and Haverstraw-Ossining (H-O) UniTicket.
I would like to have given these comments in person, but was unable to do so because Rockland County was one of only two MTA voting-member Counties not provided with an opportunity to comment within their own communities. When I wrote to Chairman Lhota to ask that a fare hearing be held in Rockland, I was told that public hearings are costly, and that the hearings in Westchester and Orange “covered” the Hudson Valley area. Given the historical inequity that Rockland County has suffered at the hands of MTA, you would think that it would have at least been worth the public relations value to have held a hearing in Rockland. Frankly, I find it even more shameful that Rockland was not even afforded a "satellite" video comment opportunity. Such a gesture would have been so simple.
Regarding the proposed fare increases: I believe the suburbs need to pay their fair share for the MTA services they receive both in their communities, and for those services that residents use when they are in the City. That said, Rockland County residents pay $108 million each year to the MTA. The problem is this: Rockland County’s “share” is far from “fair” because we only get about $68 million in value back from MTA each year. That leaves us with a $40 million value “gap” [MTA Value Gap Analysis (February 2012)]. Public documents, commissioned studies and MTA’s own reports have consistently shown that Rockland County has been overpaying MTA in this manner for more than 25 years.
Perhaps a few of you may feel inclined to dismiss Rockland County’s $40 million value “gap”, believing we should pay more because we are suburban and we benefit from and use other MTA services. Well, the value gap reports account for that, and there is still a gap. The latest report includes not only the “value” of rail services Rockland residents receive on the West side of the Hudson, but also the value of services on the East side, the value of NYC Transit services such as buses and subways, the value of the MTA’s bridges and tunnels, the value of MTA’s capital investments throughout the entire region, the value of MTA’s police department, and even the value of MTA’s administrative services. All told, about $68 million in annual “value” – a figure that actually (ironically) almost rivals our annual $40 million “gap”.
Rockland County is one of only two counties (with Orange) in the MTA region that has a value “gap”. By the way, these reports all document that all of the other MTA counties, including the five boroughs, benefit from value surpluses – they get more service than they pay for.
Common sense financial fairness would dictate, therefore, that Rockland County be exempt from the proposed fare increases. During my 20-year tenure as Rockland County Executive and a NYMTC Principal, it is with a deep conviction rooted in justice that I have fought for Rockland County’s fair share from the MTA. Rockland County is burdened by its orphan status as a New York community on the West side of the Hudson River – deep in NJ Transit territory.
Rockland County’s “bi-state” political circumstance has resulted in decades of sub-par train service along with neglected and sub-par stations. Chairman Lhota said in his letter to me that MTA is, “working to provide the very highest level of service that has become not only a Metro-North tradition but an international industry benchmark.” I wonder if any of you have ever traveled on Metro-North from Rockland? To arrive at 347 Madison Ave. at 9 am, you could wait in a shelter at Nanuet (no station house), take the Pascack Valley Line to Secaucus, walk upstairs, transfer to a Northeast Corridor train to Penn Station, transfer to the #3 subway train, walk to Times Square, transfer to the “S” train (Grand Central shuttle), and walk to the office. All told, about 1 hour, 40 minutes and about $374 a month (for now). I doubt you would think this option would rise to the level of “international industry benchmark,” considering it’s only a 30-mile car ride.
Chairman Lhota has made it clear that the final decision on how fares will factor into the MTA’s finances for the next two years rests with the Board. He indicated that that the proposed fare options were presented “to share the need for increased revenue as fairly as possible,” which, to MTA, meant, “across the customers of ALL of its services”.
Rockland County residents already pay $40 million more than they should each year to MTA – there is nothing fair about that. This is your opportunity to finally acknowledge Rockland County’s inequity. I call upon you, Members of the Board, not to raise fares for the Rockland portions of the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis Lines (fares from Spring Valley, Nanuet, Pearl River and Sloatsburg), and for the H-O ferry (a vital commute alternative that reduces congestion on the Tappan Zee Bridge). There should also be no increase to the train fare for the TZx UniTicket and H-O UniTicket.
I have told our quarter-vote representative Mr. Wortendyke to vote “no” to any proposal that includes increased fares for Metro-North’s West of Hudson services in Rockland County.
Thank you in advance for your favorable consideration of this very just request.
C. Scott Vanderhoef
Rockland County Executive